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  Tuesday, October 20, 2020
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The Atlantis shuttle, that successfully blasted off from the Kennedy Space
The Atlantis shuttle, that successfully blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Thursday, will dock with the International Space Station (ISS) on Saturday, NASA said.

The shuttle launch, which was subject to continuous delays, will deliver the European Space Agency's (ESA) $2 billion Columbus space laboratory, which has taken some 10 years to construct and will provide Europe with its first platform on the ISS.

The ESA head, Jean Jacques Dordain, was cited as saying from Florida: "From now on ESA becomes a visible and concrete partner of the space station."

During the shuttle mission, the crew plan to carry out three spacewalks, installing and activating the Columbus, which will be the second ISS laboratory since the Destiny module was delivered there in 2001.

"It's great to have two laboratories in space," Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations was quoted as saying.

The Atlantis crew comprises seven astronauts - commander Stephen Frick, pilot Alan Poindexter, mission specialists Rex Walheim, Leland Melvin and Stanley Love plus European Space Agency (ESA) astronauts, Hans Schlegel from Germany and French national Leopold Eyharts.

The 24th shuttle mission will also bring a new face to the ISS crew, with flight engineer Daniel Tani set to be replaced by ESA astronaut, Leopold Eyharts.

The Columbus segment, which gives the ESA the right to deploy a European astronaut for a six-month period every two years, will be controlled from a mission center in Germany.

The shuttle launch was originally due to lift off December 6, but the launch was postponed over problems with faulty fuel tank sensors and a radiator hose.


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